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Mestizaje

Critical Uses of Race in Chicano Culture

2005
Author:

Rafael Pérez-Torres

Mestizaje

A major reassessment of how mixed-race identity affects Chicano culture and politics

Rafael Pérez-Torres reveals how race, historical memory, the body, and community have both constrained and opened possibilities for forging potentially liberating multiracial identities. Moving beyond the oppositions—nationalism versus assimilation, men versus women, Texans versus Californians—that have characterized much of Chicano studies, Mestizaje synthesizes and assesses twenty-five years of pathbreaking thinking to make a case for the core concerns of the discipline.

Pérez-Torres’s readings are persuasive and engaging. He introduces readers to a stimulating range of new literary works, musical groups, and poster artists in relation to more familiar Mexican and Chicano/a writings about mestizaje. This book, as a result goes beyond the well-worn paths of what is usually said about mestizaje to examine new engagements with the term and to demonstrate how mestizaje functions beyond the bounds of academia and beyond the possibilities envisioned by oft quoted writers like Jose Vasconcelos, Octavio Paz, Corky Gonzales, and Glorai Anzaluda. For this reason, Mestizaje offers something for readers well-versed in Chicano/a identity studies and theories of hybridity as well as readers with no prior exposure to these ideas.

Latino Studies

Focusing on the often unrecognized role race plays in expressions of Chicano culture, Mestizaje is a provocative exploration of the volatility and mutability of racial identities. In this important moment in Chicano studies, Rafael Pérez-Torres reveals how the concepts and realities of race, historical memory, the body, and community have both constrained and opened possibilities for forging new and potentially liberating multiracial identities.

Informed by a broad-ranging theoretical investigation of identity politics and race and incorporating feminist and queer critiques, Pérez-Torres skillfully analyzes Chicano cultural production. Contextualizing the history of mestizaje, he shows how the concept of mixed race has been used to engage issues of hybridity and voice and examines the dynamics that make mestizo and mestiza identities resistant to, as well as affirmative of, dominant forms of power. He also addresses the role that mestizaje has played in expressive culture, including the hip-hop music of Cypress Hill and the vibrancy of Chicano poster art. Turning to issues of mestizaje in literary creation, Pérez-Torres offers critical readings of the works of Emma Pérez, Gil Cuadros, and Sandra Cisneros, among others. This book concludes with a consideration of the role that the mestizo body plays as a site of elusive or displaced knowledge.

Moving beyond the oppositions—nationalism versus assimilation, men versus women, Texans versus Californians—that have characterized much of Chicano studies, Mestizaje synthesizes and assesses twenty-five years of pathbreaking thinking to make a case for the core components, sensibilities, and concerns of the discipline.

Mestizaje

Rafael Pérez-Torres is professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is author of Movements in Chicano Poetry: Against Myths, Against Margins, coauthor of To Alcatraz, Death Row, and Back: Memories of an East LA Outlaw, and coeditor of The Chicano Studies Reader: An Anthology of Aztlán, 1970-2000.

Mestizaje

Pérez-Torres’s readings are persuasive and engaging. He introduces readers to a stimulating range of new literary works, musical groups, and poster artists in relation to more familiar Mexican and Chicano/a writings about mestizaje. This book, as a result goes beyond the well-worn paths of what is usually said about mestizaje to examine new engagements with the term and to demonstrate how mestizaje functions beyond the bounds of academia and beyond the possibilities envisioned by oft quoted writers like Jose Vasconcelos, Octavio Paz, Corky Gonzales, and Glorai Anzaluda. For this reason, Mestizaje offers something for readers well-versed in Chicano/a identity studies and theories of hybridity as well as readers with no prior exposure to these ideas.

Latino Studies

In this essay collection Pérez-Torres engages and succeeds in the always risky task of reconciling the oppositions at work in the conformation of a mestizo identity through the analysis of the critical, literary, musical and other artistic productions, such as poster drawing, created by the communities who identify themselves as Chicanos. Pérez-Torres’s bright analysis finds, in the midst of the turmoil of oppositional forces advocating for difference, the unifying element that holds the Chicanos together: the mestizo race, whether it stands for pride or rejection.

Journal of American Studies

This volumes approach to mixture is unquestionable an impressive contribution to critical race studies, the field of literature, and American studies. At a time when scholarly publication like PMLA can misspell the term mestizaje as “mestizahe” (in its January 2006 issue), Pérez-Torres reminds us of the need for such a project while setting out the critical tools and parameters for addressing the supposed incomprehensibility of racial mixture in American. His offerings create a framework for ensuing scholarly dialogues that will indeed be indebted to his critical mestizaje.

Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies

This is a book of real importance. Anyone interested in American studies, cultural studies, or Chicano/a studies should read this book.

Choice

A major reassessment of how mixed-race identity affects Chicano culture and politics. Focusing on the often-unrecognized role race plays in expressions of Chicano culture, Mestizaje is a provocative exploration of the volatility and mutability of racial identities.

Libros, Libros

Appropriate for academic libraries, Mestizaje offers fresh insight into Chicano culture and identity and fills a gap in scholarly attention to race in Chicano culture.

MultiCultural Review

Through novel readings of artistic and intellectual production over the past 25 years, the book make a significant and timely contribution to only to the field of Chicano studies but also to broader critical discussions about race and gender

Bulletin of Latin American Studies